Our world-leading SunSmart program is dedicated to reducing skin cancer incidence, morbidity and mortality through a targeted prevention and early detection program.
We target priority populations and use a combination of grass roots tactics, mass media campaigns and advocacy to influence attitudes, knowledge and behaviours in sun protection. Programs operate in each state and territory of Australia by respective Cancer Councils, all using common principles.
Our objectives for 2019–23 are to:
- Improve and monitor skin cancer prevention awareness, knowledge, attitudes and behaviour.
- Support priority populations to detect skin cancers earlier.
- Advocate for strategies that aim to reduce the health and economic burdens of skin cancer.
SunSmart is supported by the Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer (CBRC). CBRC’s internationally-recognised research and evaluation focuses on finding the best ways to prevent or reduce behaviours that increase cancer risk. The Centre conducts and shares findings from its skin cancer prevention research and evaluation with SunSmart, to ensure programs and campaigns are underpinned by the best available evidence.
- Sun protection activities were first introduced in the 1960s when the Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria identified the risks of overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
- In 1980 Cancer Council Victoria set out to raise awareness of the dangers of UV by launching the iconic Slip! Slop! Slap! campaign featuring Sid the Seagull.
- The success of this campaign led to an expansion of activities including the establishment of the Centre for Behavioural and Epidemiological Research in 1986.
- The SunSmart program was officially launched in 1988 when Cancer Council Victoria received funding from the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth). Since 2004, Cancer Council Victoria has been designated a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborative Centre for Ultraviolet Radiation.
- In 2007 Clare Oliver bravely told her ‘No tan is worth dying for’ story. The campaign was instrumental in the fight to make commercial solariums illegal.
- The iconic Slip! Slop! Slap! catch-cry was expanded in 2008 to include Seek! and Slide! in recognition of the need for five forms of sun protection.
- In partnership with the Australia Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) and the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), the SunSmart app was launched in 2010, helping make sun protection times more accessible through use of UV alerts.
- Following a decade of campaigning led by SunSmart and Cancer Councils across Australia, commercial solarium operation was banned in 2015.
- SunSmart launched the UV. It All Adds Up campaign in 2015 to help educate the public around the dangers of cumulative exposure to UV.
- In 2018 thanks to philanthropic and government support, SunSmart launched the Dermoscopy for Victorian General Practice Program to aid in skin cancer detection and prevention in regional and rural Victoria.
- In 2019, the Victorian Government took over funding of the SunSmart program from VicHealth.
Forty years of commitment and partnerships with VicHealth, government, key partners and community agencies has seen huge changes in sun protection related behaviours, social norms and health outcomes including:
- Significant improvements at a population level in sun protective behaviours, such as using sunscreen and hats.
- A proven track record in preventing cancer and saving lives – it is estimated to have prevented more than 43,000 skin cancers and 1,400 deaths from the disease in Victoria between 1988 and 2011.
- While melanoma incidence in Victoria continues to rise, incidence rates in Victorians younger than 60 years are now stabilising or falling, consistent with the positive effect of the SunSmart program on behaviour change.
- In contrast to the pre-SunSmart ‘baby boomers’, the number of basal and squamous cell carcinoma skin cancer treatments among those aged under 45 years is also decreasing relative to population growth.
- SunSmart is extremely cost effective with a $2.22 return for every dollar spent in the Victorian program.
- Victoria was one of the first states in Australia to legislate solariums in 2008 and ban commercial solariums entirely in 2015.
To find out more, visit Cancer Council Victoria's skin cancer prevention research and monitoring web page.